AAP: Final say in circumcision still up to parents

September 6, 2012

New scientific evidence shows the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks of the procedure, but the benefits are not great enough to recommend routine circumcision for all newborn boys, according to an updated policy statement published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

New scientific evidence shows the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks of the procedure, but the benefits are not great enough to recommend routine circumcision for all newborn boys, according to an updated policy statement published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The revised policy, like the previous one from the AAP, says the decision to circumcise should be left to the parents in consultation with their child’s physician.The policy statement and accompanying technical report from the AAP were published online in Pediatrics (Aug 27, 2012).

Since the last policy was published in 1999 and reaffirmed in 2005, scientific research shows clearer health benefits to the procedure than had previously been demonstrated. According to a systematic and critical review of the scientific literature, the health benefits of circumcision include lower risks of acquiring HIV, genital herpes, human papillomavirus, and syphilis. Circumcision also lowers the risk of penile cancer over a lifetime, reduces the risk of cervical cancer in sexual partners, and lowers the risk of urinary tract infections in the first year of life, the review found.

The AAP said it believes the health benefits are great enough that infant male circumcision should be covered by insurance, which would increase access to the procedure for families who choose it.

"Ultimately, this is a decision that parents will have to make," said Susan Blank, MD, chair of the task force that authored the AAP policy statement and technical report. "Parents are entitled to medically accurate and non-biased information about circumcision, and they should weigh this medical information in the context of their own religious, ethical, and cultural beliefs."

The medical benefits alone may not outweigh other considerations for individual families. The medical data show that the procedure is safest and offers the most health benefits if performed during the newborn period. The AAP policy recommends infant circumcision should be performed by trained and competent providers, using sterile techniques and effective pain management.

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